Recently, I celebrated a birthday and I must admit that it was special. I had the opportunity to enjoy the company of close friends and the experience of an excellent locale to party in. Truly unforgettable. For those of you that have ever been to a fine dining restaurant, or an intimate lounge or an exclusive nightclub, then you can relate. But, this wasn’t like going to three different places to enjoy the ambiance. This all happened in one place, so allow me to take you out on this night I will never forget.
1904 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
It starts out with a cold and miserable winter day in Chicago. The temperature was in the single digits, there was plenty of snow on the ground and more coming down from the sky. Slushing our way through the city was pretty tough and staying positive was a bit difficult. To add to the misery, I was actually starving. Just a perfect storm of yuck.
Walking up to the restaurant from the slippery city streets was a welcome treat. Upon entering, my whole attitude changed. I got the feeling like I was in a neighborhood music store, but instead of the aroma of vinyl, the air was filled with appetizing smells. The sound that filled my ears was oh so nostalgic. 90’s house music was mixed in with some 90’s alternative and a hint of some 90’s hip-hop. I was hoping they were selling a mix CD! The visuals were composed of artwork that were just “fresh” (a 90’s term for those of you unfamiliar with it) and the music was making me bob my head uncontrollably. This night was becoming epic.
To think that this was just the ambience. Feeling the good music and intriguing artwork only brought my expectations up. The food had better deliver.
The night started with what I consider a staple for me when I dine out in a hole-in-the-wall location. It’s the tried and true Sweet Potato Fries (homemade style). This was extremely standard. Just deep fried sweet potatoes with salt. Was it amazing? No, but who cares? These were exactly what I was expecting. (Salty + sweet)*(finger food) = Yum.
On the total opposite side of gastronomic adventures is finely crafted and well planned out raw meat. Enter the Steak Tartare (grass-fed angus, quail egg, without the grilled rye, truffle).
OMG. Expectations blown. I took a bite and it was right up there in flavor and preparation with some high-end restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the best tartare I’ve ever had, but it was really good. After this, my expectations rose and when that happens, my hopes of the restaurant elevating from here begins to dwindle.
At this point I was at a crossroads of sorts. I had some street food and some hold-your-pinkey-in-the-air bites. What could make this evening’s adventure head in a new and exciting direction? That choice, ladies and gents was the Berkshire Pork Belly (wilted kale, pickled celery, apple cider gastrique glaze). This was the highlight of the evening, the belle of the ball. Sinfully fatty and nothing short of redefining the term “sweet and savory.” The wilted kale added a nice break from the heavenly bites of fat by reintroducing you back to Earth. This night cannot get any better than this.
In all actuality, it didn’t. I had dined on the star of the night and the next two dishes were just not as exciting. My next dish was the Pork Tenderloin (potato pancake, mushroom cream, chef’s salad). It was a wonderful palette of flavors. Salty and meaty with splashes of bitter and sweet and the uber important Umami found in the mushroom cream sauce. My suggestion for how you should order this? Start with this as an appetizer. Then go back to the list of foods I reviewed. That would’ve made me feel like I finished on top!
Being slightly disappointed, not because of the quality and flavor of the food, but because of the courses’ flow, it left me yearning for a way to forget this bad choice on my part. So I skipped dessert and ordered the NY Strip Steak (substituted sweet potato fries for the truffle fries, grilled asparagus, red wine demi).
I’ll make this short. The highlights were a perfectly cooked steak and yummy street food sweet potato fries. The downfall was that this dish just doesn’t belong after a good tenderloin or a fantastic belly. Should I have lowered my expectations? No way. This steak needs to be elevated. Maybe a distinct dry rub? Or a bolder demi? Who knows. It was just missing that something memorable.
Despite finishing the best meal I had all day in the middle of my courses, and skipping dessert for a steak, I was left with an overall gluttonous view of myself. But that doesn’t matter, I enjoyed this moment and will pay the piper at a later time.
LOKaL is a neighborhood joint where you can enjoy some art-driven ambience, awesome music and great food. Their dining focus is on grass-fed beef and organic veggies. Unfortunately, I could not identify their partnerships, but this is what they have advertised and for the price, it’s worth every penny.
1904 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622